Bette Midler, Tim Burton, more stars remember Paul Reubens: 'We loved you right back'

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Paul Reubens did more than tickle people's funny bones. He also touched their hearts.

Reubens, an actor and comedian best known for his comedic man-child character Pee-wee Herman, died Sunday of cancer, his estate confirmed on his official Instagram page Monday. "Last night we said farewell to Paul Reubens, an iconic American actor, comedian, writer and producer whose beloved character Pee-wee Herman delighted generations of children and adults with his positivity, whimsy and belief in the importance of kindness," the announcement read.

The post included a quote from Reubens himself, apologizing to fans for dealing with his health privately. "Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years," he said. "I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from my friends, fans and supporters. I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you."

An outpouring of tributes came in online from Reubens' friends in the entertainment world mourning the actor's death.

Joe Manganiello, who starred in the 2016 movie "Pee-wee's Big Holiday" with Reubens, penned a heartfelt remembrance of his friend.

"Today the world lost one of the greatest comedic geniuses of all time. Paul was subversive, brilliant, witty, and had the biggest heart on the planet… anyone on his birthday mailing list will know what I mean," Manganiello wrote on Instagram.

"He was an artist and a weirdo who fought for other artists and weirdos and the world was a much better place because it had him in it," Manganiello continued. "He was one of the most recognizable faces in the world, an icon, but yet he was still somehow this lovable underdog. I’m just so glad that I got to be a part of his life and ultimately his comeback."

Bette Midler, Cher, Jimmy Kimmel pay tribute to Paul Reubens

Guillermo del Toro revealed on X, formerly Twitter, that he'd never met Reubens yet "will always miss him." The Oscar-winning director also called Reubens "one of the patron saints of all misfitted, weird, maladjusted, wonderful, miraculous oddities."

"A completely original actor and friend; I mourn his loss," Bette Midler wrote on X. "This is so hard to believe."

"Paul Reubens was like no one else − a brilliant and original comedian who made kids and their parents laugh at the same time," Jimmy Kimmel posted on X. "He never forgot a birthday and shared his genuine delight for silliness with everyone he met. My family and I will miss him."

Mark Hamill quoted an excerpt from Reubens' apology, directly responding to the actor's note about loving his fans and enjoying "making art for you."

"We loved you right back, Paul... (and) can't thank you enough for the lifetime of laughter," Hamill wrote.

"No tweet can capture the magic, generosity, artistry, and devout silliness of Paul Reubens," Conan O'Brien shared on X. "Everyone I know received countless nonsensical memes from Paul on their birthday, and I mean EVERYONE. His surreal comedy and unrelenting kindness were a gift to us all. Damn, this hurts."

"Goodbye Paul. Goodnight sweet prince," Cher posted on X in a message that has since been deleted. "May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

David Hasselhoff shared a black-and-white throwback photo of himself with Reubens in his tribute.

"Paul Reubens was a great friend," Hasselhoff wrote on X. "He gave me the Muppets for my birthday and never forgot anyone’s birthday from our class. He was in my class at (the California Institute of the Arts) and we had the same business manager. He was always kind to me and to everyone. He will be missed."

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Film director Paul Feig called news of Reubens' death "devastating" in an Instagram post.

"Paul was such a comedy genius," Feig wrote. "From his Letterman appearances to his TV shows and movies, he was so original and hilarious. And such a sweet man too. This is a huge loss for comedy. Thanks for all the laughs, Paul."

"Poker Face" star Natasha Lyonne credited her acting career to Reubens and posted photos of her younger self with the comedian from her "Pee-wee's Playhouse" days.

"Love you so much, Paul. One in all time. Thank you for my career (and) your forever friendship all these years (and) for teaching us what a true original is," she wrote on X.

Tim Burton also remembered Reubens for helping him get to where he is now as a filmmaker.

"I’ll never forget how Paul helped me at the beginning of my career. It would not have happened without his support," Burton wrote in an Instagram post. "He was a great artist. I’ll miss him."

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Contributing: KiMi Robinson and Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Paul Reubens death: Bette Midler, Tim Burton, more mourn actor